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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Winnipeg

Staal set to play in 1,000th game as Wild tries for season sweep of Jets

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (43-21-6, 92 points, second place, Central Division) at Winnipeg Jets (31-33-7, 69 points, fifth place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 4:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports Go;  Wild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

Eric Staal is set to become the 311th player in NHL history to play 1,000 games Sunday when the Wild faces the Winnipeg Jets. 

The 32-year-old will become the fifth player in team history to hit the milestone in a Wild sweater and the team will honor the accomplishment in a pre-game ceremony on April 4 when Minnesota hosts the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he played 909 games.

Sunday, his Bauer sticks and gloves will be specially branded with "1,000th game" marks, and he will wear a different jersey each period to mark the milestone. Staal was selected second overall by Carolina in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and will be the first player from his Draft class to hit quadruple figures in games played.

The native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, has missed just 22 games in his NHL career, including 12 in 2009-10, and ranks third in games played amongst all players since 2003-04 behind only Joe Thornton (1,005) and Patrick Marleau (1,003). Since entering the NHL in 2003-04, he ranks second in shots on goal, third in games played, seventh in goals, eighth in points, ninth in power-play goals and 11th in assists amongst all active players.

The four-time NHL All-Star has hit the 20-goal mark in 10 of his 13 NHL seasons and the 50-point mark in 11 seasons. Staal led the NHL in playoff scoring in 2006, helping Carolina win the Stanley Cup. He is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won a gold medal with Canada at the 2007 World Championship and the 2010 Olympics in addition to the Stanley Cup in 2006. 

Minnesota will also be in search of a bit of history on Sunday. 

The Wild has won all four games against the Jets this season, the longest win streak against the organization since the Wild defeated the Atlanta Thrashers in five straight games between Nov. 13, 2001 and Jan. 2, 2007. The Wild is 11-6-3 in its last 20 meetings with the Jets, including 5-3-1 in its last nine games in Winnipeg.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Minnesota is trying to win every game of a season series (minimum four games) against a single opponent for the sixth time in franchise history. It last accomplished the feat last season, when it defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in all five of their matchups.

A Wild victory would mark the fourth time an opponent has won every game of a season series (minimum five games) against the Thrashers/Jets organization and the first since the club moved to Winnipeg in 2011.

The last time the franchise was swept in a season series of at least five games came in 2010-11, when the Thrashers were beaten six times by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise - Martin Hanzal - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Erik Haula - Ryan White

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Nate Prosser

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Darcy Kuemper 

Devan Dubnyk

JETS

Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Patrik Laine

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Copp - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia

Marko Dano - Nicolas Petan - Chris Thorburn

Josh Morrissey - Brian Strait

Julian Melchiori - Dustin Byfuglien

Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot

Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson


The opponent

The Winnipeg Jets snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win against the New York Islanders on Thursday in Brooklyn. The Jets are rested, having played just two games over the past seven days, but Sunday's contest will mark a turn in the schedule: Winnipeg will play five games over the next week, including back-to-back games on the West Coast in Los Angeles and Anaheim. The Jets got a bit of bad news on the injury front Saturday when it was ruled that forward Shawn Mattias will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Defenseman Paul Postma will not play Sunday because of a lower-body injury. 


Connections

• Wild assistant coach John Anderson spent two seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers from 2008-10 before the franchise relocated to Winnipeg. 

• Wild forward Ryan White is a native of nearby Brandon, Manitoba.

• The Jets have three Minnesota natives on their roster, including captain Blake Wheeler (Plymouth) and defensemen Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau) and Mark Stuart (Rochester).


Road warriors

Minnesota returns to the road to complete a run of six away games in 11 days (March 9-19). After Sunday's game, the Wild will return to Xcel Energy Center and have seven of its next nine games on home ice (March 31-April 4). The Wild is tied for second in the NHL with 45 road points and tied for third in road victories (20-10-5). Since the beginning of December, the Wild has points in 18 of its past 24 road games (16-6-2). Earlier this season, the Wild had a franchise-record 14-game road point streak (Dec. 2-Jan. 31) that was the longest in the NHL since 2015.

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